Shibori Baby Shower

Making Art

As an art teacher, I could not settle for a brunch or a high tea for my baby shower. If I was gathering some of my closest family and friends to celebrate Baby Lang we were going to make art together, gosh darn it! Hence the Shibori Baby Shower was born!

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Guests were provided with baby onesies, blurb towels and muslin blankets to dye at the party. I demonstrated four different folding and binding techniques; Triangle fold, Sprial Bind, Scrunch Bind, and Square/rectangle fold. Guests than wet their bound bundle in water to aid in the dyeing.

Once wet, guests could begin dipping their items in the indigo dye vat. For the dye vat, I used two large plastic storage containers with lids. The lids are needed to cover the vats before and after. The items needed to be dipped at least twice to ensure the indigo colors are dark and the dye can soak into the areas that are not bound creating contrast in the dyed designs.

Twenty minutes between each dip need to allotted to allow the dye to oxidize. The items will initially look green as the indigo color or appears when it reacts with the air. SCIENCE!

Plastic bags were used to contain the wet items between dips. After the final dip, the items were unbound and rinsed in cold water until all the water ran clear. Once rung out, the items were hung to dry.

I ordered the Shibori Dye Kit from Amazon and used 3 kits total to 30 guests and dye roughly 60 items. By the end of the shower, the dye baths were exhausted. Below is a list of items needed in addition to the dye kits.

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Shibori Supplies & Materials:

Rubber bands, binder clips, latex gloves, large containers for dye vats, plastic bags for storage, natural fibered clothing or fabric (100% cotton absorbs the dye the best,  dying of synthetic fibers do not yield as bright an bold color contrast)

Everyone had a wonderful time, the cost to host and for guests to attend was minimal and the afternoon was spent celebrating the arrival of a baby by making art.

 

Screen Printing Practice

Making Art

The last time I screen printed was in high school and my choice of imagery was related to Dave Matthews Band. So, when I saw that there was a workshop hosted by Make and Do HK for an introductory screen printing class, I signed up immediately to bring focus to my foggy memory of the process and to block out the poor imagery choices I made when I was 18 years old.

Prior to the workshop, the facilitator asked the participants to bring in two copies of an image that they wanted to screen print. Providing examples of what would be successful, I choose to select something that was related to Hong Kong and could be used for Christmas present making opportunities. Teapots it was!

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Using contact paper and Exacto knives, we carefully cut out our imagery and then put the stenciled contact paper directly onto the screens. This process took the longest as once printing started, things moved fast and messily! Acrylic paints were used to print which made for fast drying prints and endless color options. From overlapping prints to marbling colors, it was a fun way to revisit the screen printing process and view it through the lens of an art educator rather than student artist.

The process that was taught used simple materials and could be easily adapted for young learners and has definitely got my mind revving of the potential lessons that could be facilitated or Grade 1 or 2. In lieu of Exacto knives, students could simply cut out shapes in contact paper with scissors and stick it on to the screen. To cut down on the need for 20 plus screens, a few students could collaborate on one screen building up a pattern. Because they would stick the contact shapes it would print the negative but the learning is still there and great exposure to screen printing.

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Thank you to Pinyin Press and Sara Armstrong, a boss babe who has taken her love of printmaking and design and transformed it into a thriving business!

 

There’s No Place Like Home

Making Art

I began my Masters of Arts in Art Education from Boston University in August of 2016. When I began the online master’s course one year ago, I knew I wanted to attend the optional Summer Studio Session where I would attend intensive studio courses on the BU campus alongside other art educators completing the same program.

From devoting nine consecutive days to the practice of my own art making to collaborating, learning, and being inspired by other artists and art educators, my experience at BU Summer Studio Session 2017 garnered the realization that I am not just an art teacher, I am an artist.

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‘You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.’ – Glinda, The Good Witch

You Always had the Power

The two Summer Studios I elected were Storytelling Through Ceramic Hand-Built Structures and Relief Printmaking. Having not actively nor seriously created my own art since my undergraduate degree or having spent much time in the US since moving to China in 2009, I felt confused by my identity as an expatriated American, overwhelmed by the courses expectations, anxious about my capabilities and intimated by the abilities of others on the course. To help me remain focused and confident, on the eve of the studio sessions I decided to pull from prior experiences, stories, and inspiration I had used before when experiencing similar feelings. I was Dorothy Gail, swept up into a twister, dropped in a strange and complicated land destined to find her way home through brains, heart, and courage.

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In my junior year of high school, I was cast as Dorothy in the 2002 Spring musical of The Wizard of Oz. Having tried out for the part of the Cowardly Lion, I was surprised, alongside the rest of the student body and staff, that I had received the role of Dorothy. Having a slight resemblance to Judy Garland certainly helped me obtain the lead. Although intimated, overwhelmed and anxious about the leading role, I delivered a respectable portrayal of Dorothy Gail through hard work, perseverance and a strong set of lungs.

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15 years later, in Boston, I was once again Dorothy, searching for home, feeling meek and insignificant and relying on the help and teachings of others to find my way. My body of artwork created this summer in both clay and print revolved around these ideas, the iconic imagery of 1939’s The Wizard of Oz motion picture, China as my current home and big brother and the exploration of my identity, strengths, and weaknesses.

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From woodblock prints and drypoint on plexi to pronto plates and oil paint monoprints, I developed my skills in printmaking to create artwork that told a story, generated discussion and pulled upon popular culture and current events.

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In ceramic, I referenced and played with the dichotomy of Glinda’s floating orb and the floating head of The Wizard of Oz to represent different faces, phases, and sides of myself in three slab and coil relief hangings. The floating head of The Wizard can also be seen in several prints represented as Chinese children.

A large landscape vessel also created in terra cotta clay represents the different places I have called ‘home’. Grand Rapids, where I was born and raised, is represented at the bottom of the vessel depicting the Grand River and the Sixth Street Bridge, Shanghai by The Pearl Tower, The Shanghai World Financial Center and Shanghai Tower, Hong Kong by The Bank of China Tower and Peak Tower and The Emerald City which represents Boston, my future and the hopes in the horizon.

Glinda said that ‘Home is knowing. Knowing your mind, knowing your heart and knowing your courage. If we know ourselves we are always home, anywhere.’ My time at Boston University Summer Studio Sessions has helped me find my way home as an educator, artist, and adult. I will continue to look East, at the invisible glowing green horizon wondering whats next but now better knowing that as long as I know myself, I am always home.

I want to thank the characters I met along the way who helped me follow the cobblestone road. Thank you to Joshua Brennan, Technical Associate Printmaker, Instructor and Lecturer at Boston University, and Megan Samson, Ceramics Instructor and Adjunct Lecturer at Boston University, for their patience and exemplary teaching. To my roommates, classmates and now friends, thank you for inspiring me to push, pull, play, plan and persevere. Like Good Glinda also said, ‘It’s not where you go, but who you meet along the way…’

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Why Art Teachers are Obsessed with Halloween

Making Art

It is almost that time of the year, when your neighbourhood art teacher sharpens their scissors, reloads their glue gun and turns their fingers into needles. HALLOWEEN IS UPON US! I can confidently say that every art teacher I know and follow loves Halloween. From the idea that you can be anything to the fact that our profession essentially grooms us for the very day, art teachers are obsessed with Halloween and here is why.

1. Halloween = Popular Culture

Halloween costumes each year are indicative of popular culture, also known as visual culture, and can be used as a way to investigate what students are interested in along with society. As stated in Moore’s 2004 article, “Aesthetic Experience in the World of Visual Culture”, teaching visual culture helps practices putting oneself in another’s shoes, for entertaining changes of perception and interpretation, for careful attention to fine distinctions and nuances, for appreciating composition within a frame or framework, and so on. And although kids and adults don’t even know that they are doing it, they are participating in an aesthetic based selection of what and how to present themselves in and through popular culture when dressing up for Halloween.

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2. Halloween champions creativity and innovation

Some will always and forever go for the store bought costumes (sacrilege in my opinion) but many people, kids and adults, pull from within and generate innovating Do-It-Yourself costumes on a shoe string budget. What other time of year does the average mom use all of her artistic talent to create a fairy costume for her seven year old? Okay, maybe for school plays but you get my drift.

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3. Halloween is the Super Bowl for art teachers

Everything that we do for our job is the equivalent to pre-season training for October 31st. Hoarding toilet paper tubes, knowing where to buy the cheapest fabrics and puffy paint, knowing our way around small hand tools and having a small army of children that could potentially help, gives us a home turf advantage on game day. And like concussions, with every hot glue gun burn we become stronger and are able to cover more yards to score a that 100 GRAND…candy bar.

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*No small children were exploited in the making of these costumes.

4. Creating a costume is creating art

If efficient and accurate data entry into an Excel spreadsheet had a holiday, you would be excited too, accountants! Halloween allows art teachers a day in the year where we can showcase our talents and create art via costume design. Like any piece of art, careful planning, sketching, reconnaissance missions for supplies and resources and construction must all be completed before the deadline. Although art teachers are creating art via demos, extracurricular classes and/or on their own time, Halloween is a fun way to practice what we love and celebrate alongside others who have participated in creating something special and artistic for Halloween.

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5. You get to be anything you want to be

Think about it! There is a day, a magical day, where we are allowed, kids and adults alike, the opportunity to become anything they want to be. This can be very powerful. Let’s face it, Halloween is no longer about ‘being scary’ it is about changing your appearance in any way that you wish. Like aesthetics in art, dressing up is a way in which we can take from our own experiences and view of the world and see it from another others persons lens. In this case a fairy, penguin, historical figure and/or sexy corpse (ahem).

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6. Halloween = candy and partying

Even if you do just buy the store bought costume and want to put minimal effort into the participation of Halloween, remember it is all about candy. Sorry pagans and devil worshipers, this is the truth. Halloween has a soft Tootsie Roll centre. Candy is so powerful we need to teach children not to take candy from a strangers. For adults, it is a reason to dress up, party and indulge in confectionary delights. And if you like pumpkin spice, throw that in there too! What’s not to love!? So get involved and start licking the candy shell to get to that Tootsie Roll centre, why dontcha!?

As you can see, art teachers have their reasons for being obsessed with Halloween and I would be surprised that after reading this, you don’t as well. Halloween is magical! It allows one to escape the rigours of everyday life and become Elsa…and just let it all go…

 

 

 

Graffiti Art vs. Street Art

Making Art

Write the Future is a distributor of spray paint products and also hosts a variety of workshops. It is a wonderful cross between gallery, art supply store and all around funky fresh place. I had the pleasure of attending their Spray Paint & Graffiti workshop and I will most definitely return for more writing in the future. See what I did there? Check them out here.

https://www.facebook.com/writethefuturehk/ 

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The workshop started with a presentation on the history of graffiti art. Our teacher explained the difference between street art and graffiti art and, to make my teacher proud, here is the difference. Graffiti art is generally someones name or tag without a message and street art is imagery with a message. Graffiti art is also about the movement and placement of that name. Ever wonder why there is so much graffiti on train cars? It’s because that name then moves and it can be seen further and farther.

From there, they got us sketching a throw-up which generally consists of a one color outline and one layer of fill-color. I found it quite difficult to create a balanced throw-up and it obviously takes a lot of practice to be able to consistently do it in a short amount of time. Mad respect!

After we finished our throw-ups on paper, we choose our spray paint colours (hardest decision of my life), nozzles and then made our way to the roof. There, they had provided us with stark white boards to practice on and gave us a brief introduction into different spray paint techniques. Ready. Set. SPRAY!

I found the shadow in black to be the most challenging as well as remembering to keep my wrist straight and instead to move my body to make my marks. I was a little unsure of my throw-up’s ‘coolness’ but as soon as I added the orange force field and the white highlights, my throw-up had a 14-year-old-skater-punk coolness to it. Eat your heart out Avril Lavigne!

Here are my fellow classmate’s throw-ups.

Through this experience, I have gained a new appreciation for graffiti art and more importantly, I will now accurately teach what it is and isn’t to my students. I am also excited and energised to continue experimenting with spray paint as a medium. Even though I don’t foresee myself tagging around town, I have gained a new respect for this unique art form the talented artists behind the cans.

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DIY French Beret

Making Art

Beret’s can be expensive especially if you simply want to use them for a costume. Here in Hong Kong they run for $50 HKD ($8 USD) but with minimal effort, you can make one yourself for $8 HKD ($1.15 USD). I needed to provide 50 berets for teachers and staff to wear at an art auction and with a limited budget this with what I came up with.

Materials that you need include:

  • scissors
  • white chalk stick
  • felt (traditionally black but any colour will do)
  • ruler or measuring tape
  • paper for template
  • soft black felt
  • matching thread to the felt
  • sewing machine

Begin by creating a template. My template for the two larger circles of felt needed was 12 inches in diameter. For the hole in the hat, I used a 6 inch diameter template however, everyone’s noggin is different so adjust measurements according.

Simply trace your template on the felt with the chalk and cut out the circles. Use the smaller circle template to trace and cut out a hole in one of the two circles. Pin them together and then sew along the edge.

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Lastly, turn the hat inside out and sew a small piece of the felt on top of the hat for the tail. Now, allow this to be the disclaimer, you should only use this hat for costume purposes. It will not keep you warm nor should it be worn in Paris. I am not liable for any Parisian violence or ‘beretting’ inflicted upon you.

Birds on a Branch

Making Art

Collaborative art is easy, right!? Put a beret on, give some kids some paint brushes, let them have at it, voilà! Wrong! Dead, wrong! Organising a group of adults or children to create a cohesive and effective work of art takes a lot of planning and preparation. I experienced this while helping facilitate a collaborative art piece that included 48 square canvases displayed as one work of art for our school’s art auction. I used systematic grids to help guide primary students through each step of the painting process.BIRDS ON A BRANCH-0001

I took inspiration from an artwork I pinned on Pinterest a few months ago. Below includes the steps to create a 10 x 10 collaborative acrylic painting of birds on a branch.

BIRDS ON A BRANCH-0001Step 1: Create a grid that will be a scale representation of the entire work as well as a guide for each individual canvas. On the back of each canvas, write a number that corresponds with a number on the grid. Then have students paint their canvas to match their number on the grid. Demonstrate how to blend the colours together and paint in the same upward direction.

Step 2: I painted the branch across all of the canvases once they were dry. This is something that students can do as long as you provide them with the grid so they know which part of the branch is in their section.

Step 3: I drew generic bird outlines in each grid square which the students used as a guide to draw that same outline on their canvas with a white coloured pencil.

Step 4: Students followed another grid to show them what base colours to paint their birds.

Step 5: Students followed the final grid to help them position the beak, eyes, legs and the feather detailing.

Step 6: Put the artwork together like a jigsaw puzzle and either you or your students can help touch up the branch to make sure it connects across the canvases and to also add leaves and details into the background.

If I were to do this project again, I would allow the students to trace the shape of the bird and then give them more freedom in painting the colour and style of bird. Although the piece works because it is stylized, I feel that I could have given student more structure in certain places and more freedom in others. In the end, both myself and students feel proud and happy of their work. Now lets see what the auctioneers will think.

Making Clothes in Shenzhen

Making Art

My first experience with making clothes at a fabric market was in Shanghai. Hong Kong sadly does not have anything like it and in lieu has pricier tailors and overpriced fabrics. However, just a hop skip and a jump over the border you will find consumers paradise. Traveling to the dark side can be intimating but have no fear! Here are a few tips and tricks to navigating your way to Shenzhen and then making fabulous frocks.

Simply take the the MTR to Lowu station which is the closest MTR station to the border. From Central station it will cost $46 HKD and an hour and some change each way. Upon arrival, you follow the signs to China Border Immigration. If you have a Hong Kong Residents card you can efficiently feed your card in the automatic machine like at the airport. From there you go through border control where they check your passport and Chinese Visa. The entire process takes about 30 minutes. You can get a Visa on arrival but not if you are America. thumb_IMG_1476_1024

Follow signs to Luohu Shopping Plaza and take the very slow and very small elevator to the 5th floor. There you will find stall after stall of tailors. You then find one that you like the look of. Most of them speak English and they frequently work with foreigners. Once they have your measurements, they accompany you to choose the fabric from separate fabric vendors. Before you do this though, negotiate the price of what you want made as the fabric is priced out separately. The price that they will first give you will be 2-4 times the price, then you can bargain down. Stand firm and be prepared to walk away, this also goes for the fabric. It is very important to go with an idea of what you want as there is so much choice that it can be very overwhelming.

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They deliver all finished garments to your address in Hong Kong for about $100 HKD which will take about 10 days. If you are unhappy with the fit, they will do tailoring for free, but the catch is that you have to make the trek back to do it. Lastly, note that the market is closed from the last week of January until after Chinese New Year.

Once Jessica measures you bust line, you’re friends for life!

Fabulous Fascinators

Making Art

I had the pleasure of attending a millinery workshop hosted by Awon Golding, a London based milliner who had returned to her once home of Hong Kong for a visit and to share her knowledge, passion and haberdashory talents.

Awon, stylish, laid back and exotically ambiguous, welcomed me and helped me get started on a floral fascinator. As other participants trickled in she flitted around and helped everyone at different stages, helping them get to the next.

After selecting from a smorgasbord of flowers, feathers and freckled veils, I began sewing the mauve fascinator onto the ribboned headband. From there, I nestled the netting on the base and arranged the flowers in a bouquet as a topper. After securing it with stitches, I added the last bit of netting to finish it off.

To be frank, making the fascinator was easier than I thought. However, gathering all of the materials to create one on your own would be the difficult part. I am grateful to have spent time learning from a master and gaining the confidence in knowing that come derby day, I will be making my own fabulous fascinator!

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Art Supplies in Central

Making Art

This post is for the ‘Hong Kongers’ that need a little help with where to buy art supplies in and around Central. Do note that such supplies are cheaper in Sham Shui Po but if you are like me, I would rather pay a little more to avoid going to the dark side just for some googley eyes. Am I right, or am I right!?

As you know, finding the cheapest supplies is trial and error. In fact, just yesterday I bought spray paint and then found it cheaper 10 minutes later at another shop down the street. So, I marched back and demanded that they allow me to return it. After putting my angry ghost face on, I was met with success. With that, lets start off with paint.

Spray paint, furniture and large project paint can be found at neighbourhood hardware caves. My local is on the corner of Jervios street and Hillier street. A can of regular spray paint will run you $24 HKD. In this hardware cave there is a friendly young cave man with great English very eager to help.

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For crafty items, meaning everything from styrofoam balls and glitter glue to oil paints and crate paper, the stationary mecca of Central is located on in the alley of Wing Wot Street, off of Queen’s Road.  Now here is the catch, everything is slightly marked up because they know we live on an island so be prepared to pay a little extra for convenience.

My all time favourite supply store is on Stanley Street next to the promised land for fancy dress, a.k.a Pottinger Street. This place has fake fruit, international flag bunting and a nice selection of art materials. It is a magical kitchen drawer store and every time I am amazed at the wondrous things that they are hawking.